Penrith keen to host A-League clubBy Tom Smithies
April 03, 2008 12:00amTHE battle for a second Sydney A-League team has taken a new twist with the Penrith Leagues Club planning a bid for entry in 2010.
The Panthers Entertainment Group - which owns a portfolio of 14 licensed clubs in NSW - has scheduled talks with Football Federation Australia as a precursor to submitting a formal application.
As various bidders circle the proposed second Sydney franchise, The Daily Telegraph has also learnt that reclusive Wollongong billionaire Bruce Gordon recently met with FFA chairman Frank Lowy to impress upon him his support for an A-League team in the Illawarra.
It's inconceivable that more than one Sydney team would be added to the A-League in 2010, and FFA chief executive Ben Buckley believes the western suburbs have a compelling case - particularly given the AFL's expansion plans for the area.
But Gordon's involvement has impressed the FFA, whose bottom line continues to be that new clubs must be able to pay their way.
The Panthers bid would see the team be based at Penrith Stadium, the summer fixtures complementing the Panthers' NRL season. The stadium is in the middle of a multi-million-dollar government-funded renovation.
It's not known whether the Panthers Group would bankroll the A-League franchise - it reported a $10 million loss last season.
However, it signed a deal with the property arm of Dutch finance giant ING in May last year that eliminated its bank debt and reportedly gave the group cash for expansion.
The FFA had hoped to introduce teams on the Gold Coast and Townsville for next season but neither could meet certain financial criteria in time and hope to enter in 2009/10.
While it has long been assumed a second Sydney team would be at Parramatta, some see Penrith as more logical as it would be further from the sphere of Sydney FC and reduce the risk of siphoning off existing support.
Former A-League chief Matt Carroll argued last year that Penrith offered a compelling case for serious examination, particularly given the number of players in the region.
The stadium's owners, Penrith City Council, are very keen on backing any bid and last night Mayor Greg Davies said: "Penrith is a large regional area with a strong supporter base for national teams and there is a huge interest in the A-League.
"Council would help achieve that dream . . . through firm support of a financial backer of a team."
Don't like the idea of a club being linked to another club in another sporting code. Did Parramatta/Carlton/Collingwood teach us nothing?
Playing out of Penrith is OK, being linked with the Panthers is a bad move.